AT&T to launch its LTE network in 5 cities this summer

First cities are Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio; 10 more to be added later in the year

AT&T said it will activate its LTE wireless network this summer in five cities: Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio.

The company will roll out the mobile broadband network in 10 more cities by the end of the year, AT&T CTO John Donovan said in a statement.

In addition, AT&T will add some LTE devices -- presumably smartphones, tablets and USB aircards -- to its portfolio this year, Donovan said. He didn't say how many of those devices will work on LTE networks, but he said 20 4G devices will be added this year.

AT&T counts both LTE and HSPA+ as 4G networks, as do other carriers, although the definition of 4G varies widely. Most experts agree that LTE (Long-Term Evolution) is a 4G (or fourth-generation) network. Generally, LTE speeds in the U.S. have been lower than than 10Mbps for both uplinks and downlinks. AT&T hasn't said what download and upload speeds users will get from its network.

Verizon Wireless has LTE networks in dozens of cities. It said the service, which it launched last fall, offers download speeds of up to 12Mbps and uploads of up to 5Mbps.

HSPA+ can theoretically provide 21Mbps downlink speeds on an uncrowded network.

AT&T said it has spent $75 billion on its wired and wireless networks in the past four years, and it plans to invest $19 billion this year.

AT&T has moved more slowly than Verizon on LTE partly because LTE is a newer technology that requires more lab testing, according to several AT&T executives.

Verizon's LTE network experienced a two-day outage in April. The company has never explained what caused the service disruption.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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